'The Kyoto Protocol is just a first step'
By Marcela Valente*
Tierramérica spoke with Joke Waller-Hunter, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and in charge of organizing the upcoming conference of parties to that agreement, to take place in December in Buenos Aires.
BUENOS AIRES - Since 2002, Joke Waller-Hunter, of the Netherlands, has served as the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and oversees the organization of the conferences of parties to that agreement, which bring together delegates from 188 governments each year to discuss ways to curb emissions of what are known as greenhouse gases.
From Dec. 6 to 17, Buenos Aires will host the 10th Conference of Parties (COP10) on climate change, coinciding with the tenth anniversary of the UNFCCC itself.
''A very nice anniversary gift would be Russia's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol,'' allowing that treaty, which sets targets for emissions reductions, to enter into force, Waller-Hunter said in a dialogue with Tierramérica during a recent visit to the Argentine capital. However, she added, the Kyoto Protocol is just a first step.
- What do you want to come out of COP10?
- It will be a very special conference because it is the 10th anniversary of the Convention (on Climate Change) and anniversaries always give us a chance to look back, to analyze what has been achieved and see where we are headed, and what we should be doing to resolve the problem of climate change.
- What issues will be emphasized at the conference?
- We hope that COP10 is very strongly centered on the debate about common actions by the countries and on the national and international cooperation needed for adapting to climate change, especially in developing countries, which are the most vulnerable.
- Do you think Russia will ratify the Protocol?
- We know that it is a decision of the Russian government to work with its different ministries to prepare a common position, and that process is underway. It is a discussion at the highest political level, and we don't know exactly when it will end. With that uncertainty, we are preparing for COP10. Of course, a very nice anniversary gift would be Russia's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol during the Buenos Aires conference.
- What will happen if Russia fails to do so before COP10?
- I don't think there would be a direct impact on the Conference. Furthermore, the entry into force of the Protocol is not a requisite for defining the success or failure of the meeting, because the basis of our deliberations is the Convention on Climate Change.
The Protocol plays a key role, because it gives the industrialized countries clear goals. Even if it hasn't entered into force, it influences the agenda of the countries that have ratified it. But the Protocol is just a first step in attending to a long-term problem.
- Do you think it is possible to convince the United States to commit to reducing emissions after it withdrew its signature from the Kyoto Protocol in 2001?
- To be effective in the future implementation of the Convention, we need to have all sectors involved: those that ratified the Kyoto Protocol, those that didn't, and those that said they wouldn't. Surely the environmental ministers (at COP10) are going to analyze how we can bring everyone in.
- What message would you like COP10 to send to the world?
- It should underscore the importance of climate change as a very serious global problem, and also demonstrate how the international community acts in confronting it.
* Marcela Valente is an IPS correspondent.